More homes evacuated as new storms threaten collapsing UK dam

A member of the emergency services walking through the deserted city centre of Whaley Bridge, in Derbyshire, after the city was evacuated over fears of a collapsing dam, on Aug 4, 2019.
A member of the emergency services walking through the deserted city centre of Whaley Bridge, in Derbyshire, after the city was evacuated over fears of a collapsing dam, on Aug 4, 2019. PHOTO: AFP

WHALEY BRIDGE, UNITED KINGDOM (AFP) - Another 55 homes have been evacuated from an English town threatened by a collapsing dam, emergency services said on Sunday (Aug 4) as they raced to reduce the water levels ahead of fresh storms.

Around 1,500 people had already been moved out of Whaley Bridge in Derbyshire after part of the dam wall holding back the Toddbrook Reservoir above the town fell away last Thursday following heavy rain.

A military helicopter has been dropping sandbags to shore up the structure while emergency services have been working around the clock to pump water out of the reservoir.

Water levels have now been reduced by one-third since last Thursday, Deputy Fire Chief Gavin Tomlinson told reporters on Sunday morning.

"Our priority remains the same, to pump as much water out of the reservoir as possible, to protect the Whaley Bridge community from the risk of the dam failing," he said.

He added: "A total of 22 pumps have been working through the night and we have been successful in taking about 35 per cent of the water held in the reservoir out.

"This work will continue until engineers are confident that the water is at a safe level and the risk has been mitigated."

The Met Office weather agency has issued a thunderstorm warning for Sunday afternoon, and predicted there could be 30mm to 40mm of rain in just a couple of hours.

 

Residents who fled their homes last Thursday were allowed back this weekend to collect any essential items, but were limited to 15 minutes and warned that they entered the town at their own risk.

If the dam fails, emergency services vehicles will sound their horns three times while a loudhailer will also ring out across the town.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited the area last Friday evening, where he said the 180-year-old dam would require a "major rebuild".